Stimuli – Three Weeks

Dear Little Zinger,

I don’t know when you’ll start reading these letters. For all I know, you’re getting up between your night feedings and staring at this screen sharing its soft glow with your already-beaming angelic little face. If you really do this, I would not be the least bit surprised.

Three weeks, little girl. It’s no wonder you or I don’t want to sleep: we don’t want to miss a single moment. The minutes pass so quickly and often blur the memories. After a while we might forget these early stages. Such is the nature of time and why I write you these letters.

We are observing some things about you, and we need to have a talk. Don’t worry, none of it’s bad at all. Well, most of it isn’t bad.

Quiet Mobile

Today I removed the music box from your mobile. You would watch the mobile go round and round for a few minutes before freaking out. I figured it might be the music. Now in place of the ever-violent and traumatic “Rock-a-bye, Baby” in an accidentally minor key is the low hum of the little wind-up motor. It’s a lot better. I mean, if you want a decent dark melody for a music box, people should at least consider “Danse Macabre” by Saint-Saëns. That playing over a crib with a sleeping infant doesn’t seem nearly as demented as “Rock-a-bye, Baby.”

Next, let’s talk about visual stimulation. I’ve searched the internet for fun little things that might help you develop your vision. I know you’re not crazy about this. Every time I try showing it to you, you’re like, “Meh.” I’ve tried it with and without the sound, and let me just say it’s so much worse with the sound. If you want your ears to bleed, make sure to turn on the volume:

As far as having something to look at, this always calms you down. Which, of course it does:

Of course.

We enter this room of books, and you see all the spines in their various sizes and colors. You get quiet — almost reverent — and your eyes get big and almost twinkly. Your dad and I read titles to you and wonder which ones you’ll read first, if you’re not already reading. For all we know, you sneak into this room between your night feedings, take a book from the shelves, crawl with a flashlight into a corner and devour all the words, even though you have your own shelf in your room of board books and classic picture books. We love that you love books. But it would be okay if you didn’t.

Finally, Zingster, we need to talk to you about your squirminess. You’re no longer an inert mass of cuteness. You’re a dynamic, sprawling, limby bundle of joy. Your eyes are more intent. You turn your head and stretch your arms. You smile more and kick those strong legs. But what’s curious is the way you grab a handful of your own beautiful, dark hair and PULL. And naturally it hurts and makes you cry. I wondered if you were trying to make yourself cry: an early experiment in manipulation. You’ve done this several times, and maybe that’s all it took for you to associate the action with the pain and stop the behavior. In case you forget, do NOT pull your own hair. At least pull mine. Or someone’s I don’t like. Or wait for a sibling to come along, since you can’t pull your dad’s hair. Unless he grows it out, which he probably won’t.

It’s fascinating and terrifying how quickly you’re learning and growing, and I wonder if your father and I can keep up.

That’s all part of the ride, though.

We love the ride.

Read this and believe it: We love you.

I cannot stand the cuteness.

Love, Mom

For Crying Out Loud – Two Weeks

Hey, you.

Oh, Zingerita. Look at the time flash by. It’s only been two weeks.

It’s already been two weeks.

You get cuter every day. And smarter. And definitely more vocal. The early morning cries have become routine, but I appreciate the communication. Please be patient as  your dad and I continue to learn your language. I hope we’re catching on fast enough for you.

Your crying has several levels, according to just how annoyed you are. Of course you have basic needs that you try to convey:

  • burpy
  • poopy/pee-y
  • hungry

But there are multiple levels to each of these states. For example, let’s look at hungry, which seems to be the most common cry:

  1. I’m hungry: whimper [ehhh] *squeak*
  2. I’m hungrier than usual: [waaah, waaaah]
  3. Are you guys ignoring me?: [WAAAAAH! WAAAAH! HUHNNNNNGH! NAY! NAAAAY!]
  4. GIVE ME SOME [BLEEP] FOOD NOW! : [WAAARRRRGH!] *bottom lip tremble* [WEHHHH] *open mouth with no sound and really red face and teary eyes* [WEGGGGHHHHH! HENGGH-HENGHH-HENGGHH! HEEP?! HENNNNGH!]

We try to catch you in the first two levels of any of the above states, though while we were in the hospital with you we got to hear NAY! NAAAAAY! a lot. This may as well be your first word, because you have cast a dissenting vote since the day before you were born. You quite clearly said NAY to pitocin when your heart rate dropped from the strong contractions.

That’s right, girl: just say NAY to drugs. I’m proud of you.

I’ll always be proud of you.

Speaking of crying, only a handful of people (maybe +1) have actually acknowledged and asked about my emotional state. The hormones are rampant and my emotions are everywhere. Over half of that handful are healthcare providers, and one of them isn’t even my own doctor. The hormone effects are one of the most significant parts of the postpartum experience, and it’s surprising that not more people talk about them. Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised. Of course we want to coo and be excited and grateful and happy, but there are also a lot of tears.

When we were in the hospital and the doctor suggested supplementing breastfeeding with formula, I cried. Over the course of our three-day stay you’d lost 10% of your birth weight. You’d latch on and suckle only to get colostrum, which is good for you but doesn’t help you gain weight, and I was worried that milk wouldn’t come soon enough. The lactation specialist came in and coached me on latching; a night nurse came in and tried to force feed you with the brute strength of her man hands smashing my breast toward your mouth while you cried at level 4 and her commanding you to eat. Then the penultimate day of our stay, Nurse Candice calmly informed us of your weight loss and suggested a breast pump to help stimulate milk production more quickly. She said it almost in passing, but it was something I paid close attention to.

We kept track of your diapers and feedings throughout the week. It was breaking my heart to think that I was starving you, and all my inadequacies and insecurities from 37 years of life pre-you snowballed along with my doubts  of whether I could be a good enough mom to you.

Your dad and I were already pretty sleep-deprived. The effects from the IV drip were taking hold. I wanted to be able to sit up and gaze at you in the clear plastic crib-thing on the stainless steel wheelie cart without staples from the c-section poking me. You were sleep-deprived. We were all worn out.

You were patient from the beginning, though, faithful one. You kept latching on with the expectation milk would come. I didn’t want to let you down.

(That last sentence was sort of a pun about breastfeeding. I’m sure you don’t need me to explain.)

Not even an hour later on the same day Nurse Candice talked to us, I called her and told her I’d like to learn how to use a breast pump. She brought one right away. I’d use it after feedings every two hours or so, and by the next day somehow I filled a 12mL syringe of the creamy stuff, not just the thick, clear colostrum. Nurse Candice saw it and brought back only four small bottles of formula to supplement breastfeeding at home. Because she was so hopeful, I became more confident.

Right now I thrive on that kind of reassurance. The doctor weighed you last week, a mere six days since our discharge from the hospital. You gained over half of the weight you lost at the hospital. We were thrilled at the good news. Because you could now eat until satisfied, your mood improved, and you could sleep better. Your father and I were so thrilled.

One particularly powerful experience happened over the weekend. Even with our little victories that I’ve mentioned, I still could not control my mood swings well. I was having a hard time trying not to feel insecure and like I was always doing something wrong. We were out and you had started to get fussy. It was getting late and we headed back to our apartment. The car ride usually makes you sleep, but you amped it up to level 4 for nearly the entire way home.

When we finally got home, you and I had a skin-to-skin feeding session, which never fails to calm you down. Your dad and I talked while you ate. After you fed for a while, I got up to use the bathroom. I laid you down on the bed so that your father could watch you. As I walked past you, your dad said that you were reaching for me.

Man, I love your dad so much.

I turned around and paused. Your big pleading eyes looked right into my eyes. Your body formed a slight curve, and your arms stretched toward me.

When I returned from the bathroom, I picked you up and held you. I recalled the image from just a few seconds before and cried.

As a new mom I’m beginning to understand that parenting is more than keeping you alive, though I can’t help my anxious wakings to check to see if you’re still breathing. Though I try to be prepared as I can, sometimes I feel I have no way of knowing that I’m doing anything right.

But when you looked at me and turned toward me and reached out to me, you also validated me. There’s a very instinctual relationship between newborns and their parents, but you seemed very consciously to acknowledge me as your mom. You seemed to know that’s what I needed.

Those eyes.

I just wanted to thank you again for your patience. For understanding my tears.

And for a truly meaningful two weeks so far.

And for repeatedly forgiving me.

I hope one day to make you proud.

Love, Mom

One Week Old

I'm cute!

You were born last week, in the middle of the night, but not without a little resistance.

Lola!

We came in to the hospital last Monday, when you were already 5 days overdue, to take a nonstress test.

First contact

Da-da!

Nurses fastened monitors to my tummy to keep track of your heartbeat and movement.

They watched and waited and said that they would keep me in the hospital until you were born.

I guess you were exhibiting some stress.

So they set us up. They attached an IV and started a pitocin drip to start contractions.

They administered an epidural.

Then we waited.

When they increased the pitocin to the maximum dosage, you reacted poorly.

So much so that they stopped the drip so that you could recover.

After a couple of hours they restarted pitocin at the lowest level and increased it slowly and watched you very carefully.

You seemed to respond well, but the pitocin didn’t help the contractions progress.

They called the doctor. The doctor called for a c-section.

They prepped us for surgery.

At 1AM on Tuesday, you were born.

I never knew a mere week could be so full of joy. And sleeplessness. And poop.

You came out alert, eyes assessing the scene. Your very first cry made me cry. The anesthesiologist wiped the tears from my eyes.

We have spent the last week learning how to communicate with each other. Your dad has been quick to get up in the middle of the night to change your diapers.

More Da-da!

Your dad and I have already spent so many minutes gazing into your angelic little face and watching you sleep. We laugh at the faces you make; you make a lot of faces.

One of many

Cautious skepticism

 

Seriously?

The world is cursed.

 

Sometimes we talk to you in cutesy voices, and sometimes we get serious and explain things about real life to you. You look at us intently.

Our joy is supposed to grow from here? I wonder how that is even possible.

We look forward to many, many more weeks together with you.

Awwwwwww...